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Playing Rock Hudson

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As is promptly declared at the start of this slick, sophisticated production, Rock Hudson “appeared to everyone differently, which was entirely deliberate.” Yet this Hollywood sensation, an actor whose career spanned 40 years, was forced to keep his sexuality a secret.

Dying of an AIDS-related illness in 1985, Hudson’s private life was aired to the world when former lover Marc Christianson filed a lawsuit against his estate. The formalities of this posthumous case form the canvas on which Hudson’s story plays out, with his life and loves revisited in highly emotive interludes.

A dialogue-heavy script is impeccably delivered through a series of duologues, be they a sharp-edged interrogation or sensual seduction. The stage resembles a ‘courtroom’ built from bundles of magazines with Hudson on the cover – the chokehold of the media on his identity.

This unfussy set is enlivened by the considered placement of actors (a credit to debut director and playwright Cameron Lukey), all of whom move seamlessly from a tableaux to multiple roles. Odette Galbally dons diamonds and a feathered-crop wig as Elizabeth Taylor, holding her bold and brazen own in an otherwise suit-clad male cast. Shane Savage is strong as both Christianson and Jack Navaar, the leading men in Rock’s life, with the star himself played by a fittingly chiselled Bart Walsh.

The acting is first rate, as is the way that we, the audience, are thrust into judge’s seat. Nearly thirty years on we are fortunate to be privy to this perfectly executed, compelling story of the man who, albeit regrettably, gave much needed celebrity status to a harrowing disease.

Playing Rock Hudson plays at The Coopers Malthouse until Dec 4. Find out more here.


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